Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Mike’s Musings: Ugh, more roundabouts coming your way

I’m not a fan of roundabouts. I know they are all the rage in road construction at this point, but I’m not sure they help in alleviating traffic congestion.
More importantly, the latest round of round-a-bouts in some of our circulation areas are hurting small business.
Take for instance, the roundabout that is being constructed in Allegan. Small downtown businesses, who were able to, weathered last year’s summer road construction projects that tore up most of the downtown area for months. In the end the road is smoother and the town more appealing but the toll it took on small business was hurtful. Potential customers either avoided the downtown all together or had to navigate to a parking space and then walk much further than normal.
Most businesses weathered the storm and are thankful for the new look. However, they didn’t expect Round Two to come so quickly, meaning the roundabout construction that has closed M-40/M-89 and forces potential customers to take a detour a couple of miles around the construction. One wonders why this had to happen two years in a row. Couldn’t the construction have waited another year to give businesses an opportunity to recoup their losses from 2023?
MDOT’s solution to most traffic construction is to build a roundabout. They are now doing so in conjunction with the county on Blue Star in Saugatuck, during, guess what, the busy summer season. Saugatuck has a 100-day economy and instead of waiting until autumn, road builders are beginning now, and re-routing vehicles who want to patronize certain Blue Star businesses, a few miles away. The inconvenience to motorists means many of them simply won’t bother.
Someone who wrote in to us had a great idea. Maybe the state government ought to re-imburse affected businesses with a stipend, grant or another form of payment for loss of business they have created. Heck our government officials dole out cash to numerous projects that make no sense. Why not help local communities that are affected by state construction?
Maybe because I’m elderly, or maybe because I get confused as a driver, I struggle driving through round-abouts. MDOT constructed one in Clare a few years back, and I still struggle knowing when to go or stop.
I can’t imagine being 80 or 90 years old and having to learn round-about etiquette. Once you get the hang of it I’m sure it’s easy but if I recall, more than one wreck was the result of the new Clare roundabout. In Allegan it will be more complicated because the roundabout is on a major truck route. Large semis travel the route minute by minute and negotiating the new roundabout with cars sandwiched in between them is going to be interesting.
Roundabouts supposedly move traffic at a quicker pace and eliminate congestion. I’m not so sure, but as all progress, they are here to stay. My only hope is that the businesses affected by the road construction will survive and prosper. They don’t deserve a fall off in customers that isn’t their making.

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